Tel Aviv Diary May 10, 2003 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - from May 10, 2003 Karen Alkalay-Gut

i'm still going crazy with this new site - can't figure out what's wrong and there's no one to talk to. what i liked about this site was the transparency of it - just write it down in html and don't look at it - forget what i said yesterday so i may not be consistent but i can't lie. once i start 'constructing' it, i'm becoming 'artistic'. very bad for political thinking.

Mitzna is regretting ever going into politics - the whole party seems to be regretting itself. Last week when i passed by the local labor offices - the offices where i once saw Golda, once Rabin, Motta Gur, and often met Peres, are for rent. (There is a pop song in hebrew about passing the kindergarten and it is closed - it's a sad site.)

But i believe in the reasons for Labor. I'm reading Altneuland again - Hertzl's utopian novel - and believe in it. But then again I believed in Only Yesterday and all the other utopian novels of the time. So I'm not a reliable reader.

How can you believe in Abu Mazen, a few people wrote me this weekend, after the news program about Abu Mazen's anti terrorist campaign last night. I had no answer, except the answer my Rebbe gave me years ago when i asked him if there was a possibility there was no God. "Whether there is or there isn't a God, a Jew has to study Torah." This we discussed later as meaning, a person has to behave as if there is a divinity - this is what makes that person a 'mensch'. Same answer for Abu Mazen.

May 11, 2003

Another person already killed this morning - the second sniper shooting this week - near Ofra. Whether I agree with the 'occupation' or not, i deplore the killing.

Why do I put occupation in quotes? Because it is an occupation of land - not initially a country. And if negotiations could have gone on with Jordan, say, for the return of the West Bank and with Egypt for Gaza, it would have been much more simple. Egypt of course didn't want Gaza back, and Jordan doesn't want the West Bank - so Israel has to deal with a very amorphous being in its negotiation - a government that is not a country - yet. That's one of the main problems with determining the possibilities of negotiation with Abu Mazen. Who does he represent? Is he a puppet of Bush, as many Palestinians claim? Is he their only chance? Hard to say. Had there been a proper government in place it would have been much more simple.

But even as i write this I hear some ancient aunt i made up laughing at me (I HAVE to make up my aunts, remember? Even though Abu Mazen denies it, there was a Holocaust, and those not destroyed had their lives and/or sanity shortened by it) Anyway she says I have a tendency to get bogged down in details - look for the bigger picture, she says, the way OUT of the problem. She is rarely sympathetic to me, but her advice is good and straightforward. At least she didn't use that "don't let the tail wag the dog" cliche on me). ("Do you have a NAME for this aunt?" No, I just made her up - a generic aunt - what do you think i am, crazy? "By the way, are you still talking to that painting of Kurt Gerron?" Yes, you want to make something of it? He talks to me about survival - of self and spirit. My aunt just talks to me about being logical and keeping my focus on political issues. "Hmm, you need a little vacation...")

I DO get vacations.

Yesterday after we went to Mevasseret to see some dear friends making a lightning visit to Israel we went to the movies - to see - belatedly - Chicago. Now the woman who directed us to see this, and saw it herself for the third time, was thrilled with its postmodernity, and so was I. Lots of great feminist issues too, and very slick and well done. But then we came home and turned on the tv and there was Zehava Benn in "Tipat Mazal" (A Bit of Luck) a tear jerker from 1991 - badly filmed, only occasionally well acted, but wonderfully sung. And it was just as enthralling as Chicago - the Moroccan girl who sings in cafes to pay for her blind father's operation... the amazing singing, the singular emotion and love shines through the cheap and amateur production - the antithesis of Chicago.

Remember when I told you about the entertainment for visitors - how we use inappropriate singers and dancers to recall an antiquated vision of Israel? I've been thinking about those substitutes. Now, how about Ehud Manor (who is the most authentic and genuine songwriter i know) and Zehava Benn? Sarit Haddad? Hemi Rudner? More to come.

May 12, 2003

So the lawyer Glatt-Berkowitz is going to be charged with letting information out about Sharon's corruption trial. From the lawyer she took on, it appears clear she's not going to succeed. I would have made this a showcase trial - about the duty of the individual in a democracy to expose corruption. Sharon's little economic manipulations have probably taken enough money to keep the old people in their day care centers in Israel.

I can't BELIEVE so little money is needed to maintain a satisfactory existence for the old people here and it cann't be found. We really need a quick fix of a few million dollars - just for this. These are people whose economic situation was greatly determined by the immigranting to israel, cutting them off from a community which would have taken care of them. They may have come here because of persecution, but the effect is that they have no resources now. And they have no one who is personally involved in their existence.

May 12, 2003

Of all the icky things going on here (including a massive strike that may start tomorrow morning) my mind is fixated on the decision of the knesset committee not to lift the immunity of parliament member Naomi Blumnthal. She was accused of bribery - getting people to vote Likkud by paying for their hotel bills, etc. - but the claim was that the high court had underlying political motives so her case should not be tried. Now the whole idea of immunity for knesset members infuriates me - because where in the country are there greater criminals than in the parliament? You would almost think Samuel Johnson had us in mind when he defined "politics" in his dictionary as "the last refuge of a scoundrel." Interviewed on the news she smiled and warned the COURTS to look to itself now, and i am sure she really believes she is honest. That makes it worse. Because when she and her cronies go after the courts, they are going to be unscrupulous - and think they are being just. As to the legality of the parliament perpetuating its own immunity - it reminds me of the story of the woman who told her rebbe that her chicken fell into the chamber pot and she wondered whether it was still kosher. "it's kosher," he said, "but it stinks."

And when you have a country that allows this kind of unethical practice among its leaders, it trickles into every aspect of life.

Asher Reich received the Brenner Prize tonight. The Writers' House looked a little less than decrepit (i think maybe someone did some painting - is that possible) But they didn't go too far - they didn't fix the air conditioner. I suppose the modest environment should suit the prize of a working class writer like Brenner, but it is not a reflection of modesty but inpoverishment - physical and cultural. Reich's poetry is often stunning in its simple complexity, and Rafi Weichert spoke about him with the artful simplicity, but there was no sense of a culturally significant event - that this even was shaping the literature of the future. Of course I'm asking too much of Israeli society. Aharon Amir was giving his acceptance speech on TV lst week for the Israel Prize, when he was cut off for the commercials. That tells us the significance of literature nowadays around here.

I'll show you some pictures later when i download that will be more reflective of what I mean.

May 13, 2003

13 Israeli Islamic leaders were arrested last night - for passing money and aiding terrorist organizations in general.

Strike today

These issues are all related - everyone is out for their own interests

Somehow i erased a whole discussion of Pinchas Sapir. I wrote about him this morning but when i came to add the conclusion after a whole day of thinking, the entry was gone - probably i didn't save it. I've been reduced to making stupid mistakes now that i've made the big ones. In a nutshell i was thinking about all the factories that Sapir created three decades ago, how he built the economy almost single handedly and how most of what he built is gone. He was a dove - and as i wrote here a few months ago - gave the prime ministership to Golda Meir because he didn't want to contend with her. If he hadn't i thought maybe this country would have been different today.

But maybe not - maybe he was a dove like me and most of the doves i know - with no courage of conviction to take charge.

But tonight a couple from Holon about my ago died - probably a murder and a suicide - because they were in dire financial straits. yesterday a contractor from haifa killed himself for the same reason. and i wish there was someone like Sapir with an economic program - if only to keep some of these people alive.

May 14, 2003

Talk about courage of convictions - the Mifkad organization has renamed itself the New Labor Party - and even though I signed their petition - neglected to invite me to their first general meeting tonight. The website with the statement of principles is Mifkad and it is put together by Ami Ayalon and Sari Nusseibeh. The events page is still under construction so don't go looking for it. I would go to the meeting anyway but i've already agreed to go somewhere else.

Let's all hear it for Courage of convictions.

What else is there today that i'm not going to? a talk tonight at 19:00, Naftali, Tel Aviv University on: DEMOLITIONS AND POISONING: On Bedouin Hardship in the Negev

Meanwhile the garbage is piling up and the tourists who have finally agreed to come here are waiting endlessly for their luggage and Netanyahu and Peretz are trying to prove whose dick is bigger. No economic plan.

And Sharon is backpedalling about 'painful concessions' and peace programs.

Spent the afternoon clearing up garbage in the street - and listening to the garbage on the radio. No I have no complaints about Israel Radio - they do the best they can with the news they get. I was listening to the radio because i was out cleaning on the street with a walkman, but i usually watch tv for the news updates. i know lots of people think the news here is biased (left think its right and right think its left) but i'm very impressed with the way they deal with really loaded issues with as much fairness as they can find. I'll try for details with a specific issue in a day or two. right now it's off to din-din.

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